Wes Anderson is very much an acquired taste, but fans of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic should be delighted with Moonrise Kingdom. Two 12-year-olds run away, on a New England island (in 1965), declare their love for each other, then try to resist capture from the adults and the boy scouts who are looking for them.
Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) is a Khaki Scout, camping at Camp Ivanhoe under the leadership of Scoutmaster Ward (Edward Norton), and he escapes (with a little nod to The Shawshank Redemption) to join up with Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). He’d first seen her when she was playing a raven in a local church performance of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde.
Suzy’s parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand) are both lawyers who address each other as “counsellor”. Laura has been having an extra-marital fling with local police captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), who leads the search.
Sam and Suzy set up camp at a tidal inlet, which to them becomes Moonrise Kingdom, a place on the trails used by native American tribe the Chickchaw – as explained by narrator Bob Balaban, a great if incidental character in the film. His brilliant opening travelogue about the island (“New Penzance”, played by Rhode Island) is accompanied by Britten’s Playful Pizzicato, and Britten’s music punctuates Alexandre Desplat’s original score.
Sam is an orphan, a trial to his foster parents and unpopular with his fellow Khaki Scouts, but their loyalty to the troop eventually overcomes that hostility, to side with Sam as he and Suzy hazard their lives for love. There’s a general innocence about their relationship, but 12-year-olds French kissing, and other “moderate sex references” mean the British Board of Film Classification make it a 12A.
Roman Coppola shares the writing credits with director Anderson, and there are some choice lines, with Captain Sharp described as a “sad, dumb policeman”, and Sharp himself observing that while Sam and Suzy may be clever, “even smart kids put their finger in electrical sockets”. The final scenes, as the runaways are trapped in the church (played by Trinity Church in Newport, where George Washington was a parishioner), combine danger and pathos as they head for the roof in a thunderstorm.
The adult cast clearly relish the task of bringing their characters to life (not least Tilda Swinton as “Social Services”), and Sam’s fellow scouts are an ensemble in themselves, but the stars are undoubtedly Gilman and Hayward. They’re both new to film but bring real depth to roles in which they could easily have sounded silly and looked awkward.
Among the technical credits, Kasia Walicka-Maimone’s costume design is worth a note, if only for the scout uniforms. At one point Scout Commander Pierce (Harvey Keitel) strips Ward of his leadership badge, but then has to be rescued by Ward from a flash flood.
Even the film buff audience at the Cornerhouse had left before a final musical flourish over the end credits. Having used Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra in the film, Alexandre Desplat contributes his own version, with each instrument introduced by Jared Gilman.
Men in Black 3 (dir. Barry Sonnenfeld, cert. PG) combines fighting aliens with time travel, as Agent J (Will Smith) has to go back to 1969 to save Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), a Boglodyte, was captured in 1969 by K, but escapes his maximum security prison on the moon and uses time travel to go back and kill young agent K (Josh Brolin).
Once J works out what’s going on, he too must go back to prevent Boris killing K, otherwise the Boglodytes will destroy the world. It does all make perfect sense but that’s hardly the aim, which is to breathe new life into an idea that seemed to have run its course after the second film.
Will Smith of course gets all the good lines, while Josh Brolin just has to look and sound like a young Tommy Lee Jones (and does it well). Michael Stuhlbarg plays an extraterrestrial soothsayer, offering peace and tranquillity amid the mayhem. He has his work cut out, as the mayhem includes J and K trying to break into Cape Canaveral to put a device to protect the earth from the Boglodytes on top of the moon-landing rocket before it blasts off. The incidentals of course include a host of familiar people who turn out to be aliens, but the best of these harebrained ideas is that Andy Warhol was an MIB agent.
It’s educational too. Seeing Will Smith leap off the Chrysler Building in order to reach a speed at which he can make a jump in time, his recitation of the acceleration rate of 32 feet per second per second is now etched in my mind.